taken from here..
Would Defeat Have Ended Rafa`s Reign?
"I'm sure a lot of Belgians feel it is unfair the champions of a country have to play a qualifying round to get into the Champions League," Oguchi Onyewu said before Standard Liege's first leg with Liverpool.
The good news for Onyewu is that next year there will be more national champions in the group stages. The bad news is that Belgium's champions will still have to play qualifiers, albeit against other champions of an equal or (for the most part) lower standard.
Where Onyewu strayed badly was when he said the opposition were "such a strong opponent" that it made life more unfair. What was unfair about this qualifier was that the better team lost. 1-0. In the 208th minute of the tie. Even if Onyewu should have been penalised shortly before.
Liverpool's winners have kept on coming this season, but they have got later and later. Down the years they have come up with a series of last-gasp successes and comebacks, but usually against notionally stronger or equal opponents. This was an embarrassment that came close to a humiliation.
In a parallel universe, Igor De Camargo sent his header the right side of the post in the dying minutes of normal time and Standard Liege were through. What would have happened then? Could Benitez have survived?
I heard from a Liverpool fan during the game who said 'Rafa would have to go'. That's one opinion and you can guarantee there would have been many on the other side, but for the first time there has been an obvious public split between the Liverpool manager and sections of the support, over the proposed sale of Xabi Alonso and the projected recruitment of Gareth Barry in his place.
The change in ownership - even without the rows that have divided the club - have diminished his hold on the job in the event of a crisis, after the patient, patrician ways of the Moores family.
Even the moment of salvation, when it came, underlined a weakness. A cross delivered by Ryan Babel, who is not a natural wide left player, turned in by Dirk Kuyt, who is not a natural wide right player. The deadline to sign Albert Riera is approaching fast, but if he proves the answer then Benitez's judgment is called into question because of his failure to sign him earlier; and if he isn't the answer, then again Benitez's judgment is called into question.
Yet when UEFA finally get their fingers out and pull some names out of the hat, or balls out of buckets, at five o'clock, Liverpool will be there. They have six points from six in the Premier League. Aston Villa, their opponents on Sunday, lost at Stoke last weekend so can hardly be considered to be at the top of their game: even without Steven Gerrard, nine points from nine is a decent bet from this truncated start to the season.
There has been no evidence yet that Liverpool can take the challenge to Manchester United, who they face - quite possibly without Gerrard - on September 13 in a match that could prove pivotal. Quite the opposite, other than that comfort provided by United's temporary loss of Cristiano Ronaldo and enduring striker shortage. But it would be no weirder for Liverpool to overcome United than for them to have beaten Sunderland, Middlesbrough and Standard Liege.
There were other winners on Wednesday night: Arsenal, who strolled through. ITV, who surely had a ratings success from a compelling if baffling match. Sky, too, as the broadcasters have both English teams in the pot for the group stages. But by a nail-bitingly narrow margin Benitez achieved a victory when defeat could have defined - and ended - his reign at Anfield. No one has won bigger this August, not even Michael Phelps.
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